The Last Marines: An Interview with Lawrence N. Oliver


Having been replaced by robots and drones, veterans Ben Corbin and Sam Garrett go into business for themselves towing derelict vessels and space junk out of the shipping lanes around Mars. Business was good, but a couple of malfunctioning service robots forced them to return to Earth for replacements. Aliens attacked the freighter they’d booked passage on, slaughtering and feeding on the crew and passengers. Only Corbin and Garrett managed to hold their own until they could hide in stasis pods.

200 years later

Earth and her colonies, governed by the Commonwealth of Nations, are at war with a race of aliens known as the Nineteenth. Not with the Gar Rei Jhi who had attacked Corbin and Garrett so many years past. That war had been fought and humans lost. The Nineteenth is a new alien threat whose origins and motives are unknown. What information humans have on this new enemy comes from the uneasy alliance with the Gar Rei Jhi who’ve been fighting an even longer war with the Nineteenth. Though long ago, Corbin and Garrett’s history with the Gar Rei Jhi hasn’t been forgotten. They are to be ambassadors serving at the pleasure of the same aliens that attacked them.

Thrust into a new age of engineered soldiers, interplanetary politics, and self-aware robots, Corbin has to quickly decide who he’s going to trust as he journeys back to the Mars colony. But his search for truth may come at the cost of his life, and the fate of the Commonwealth may rest on his decision.

WARNING: If you don’t like space battles, cyborgs, diverse flawed characters, aliens, AIs, mechs, robots or bad language this book may not be for you.

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Author Interview: Lawrence N. Oliver

What motivated you to become a science fiction writer? 

I’ve always loved the genre. I’m dyslexic, so I hated reading as a child, especially aloud. I was always staring out of a window or off into the distance thinking up my own stories, characters and worlds. With dyslexia you have to read more to improve. My father bought me a copy of The Hobbit and The Foundation, after that I couldn’t get enough of scifi and fantasy books. I’ve always felt I wanted to write but never focused on it until later in life, science fiction was just the natural choice for me.

How has reading in this genre affected the kind of story you tell?

Reading some of the older and even contemporary space opera, in which the good guys are always good and always right made me want to tell a different story, one with a lot more gray than black and white.

What do you enjoy most about science fiction?

The possibilities, you aren’t restricted by history or known science. Your worlds can be whatever you want them to be, or what you fear for that matter. 

Name some of the challenges of writing The Last Marines. 

Time. Time was the single greatest challenge. I work, on average, sixty hours a week, sometimes over one hundred hours when we are really busy and shorthanded. That and raising a family are both rewarding but very time consuming. My second greatest hurdle to overcome was my lack of formal education. I never went to college or took any writing courses. My editor is a saint.

I like your premise. How long did it take you to establish the storyworld?

Oh probably a couple of years if you include add-ons. It would have gone much faster but again the time I had to dedicate to the book was limited.

Tell us about the Gar Rei Jhi and their role in the story. 

In the first book the Gar Rei only make a brief appearance. They are “space vampires” if you will. Not undead by any means but an alien race that lives, primarily, off of the blood of various carbon based life forms. The human myth comes from the Gar Rei visiting Earth from time to time to hunt and feed as they stretched out in to universe to colonize other worlds. They are bigger, stronger and faster than humans. Humans weren’t the most formidable prey by far but they tasted good and Earth had plenty of water, though that was long ago.

The Gar Rei aren’t the only aliens humans have encountered as Earth’s Commonwealth of Nations terraformed and colonized other worlds, nor are they the most dangerous. Earth had its war with the Gar Rei Jhi and lost. Now human kind is faced with a choice, they must put aside old prejudices and work together with the Gar Rei if they want to survive and continue to colonize or risk igniting a new war with their tentative allies as species battle an even greater threat to their colonies.

Introduce us to Ben Corbin, Sam Garrett and what role they play in The Last Marines. 

Ben Corbin had served as a Marine during the Mars conflicts, long before humans had become aware that other intelligent alien life existed. After the failed Martian revolt he’d been replaced by drones and robots. He and his former sergeant and mentor, Sam Garrett, leased a tract of space around Mars and went into the salvage and recovery business. They worked to keep the shipping lanes clear of debris and towed in any derelict vessels that ran into trouble. Business was good, they’d settled in to life on Mars, Ben even married. Things were finally going their way.

That is, until they ran into the Gar Rei Jhi.

Who are your favorite authors and what are you currently reading?

CJ Cherryh, Robert Heinlein, JRR Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Bill Baldwin, Robert E. Howard, T.E. Lawrence.  

Sadly I’m not currently reading anything …

Is The Last Marines a stand alone novel or part of a new series?

A new series. I hope to have the second full length novel out by the end of the year, if not sooner. This whole COVID-19 thing has really thrown a wrench into my plans, work and personal life. as it has for everyone I’m sure. I don’t mean to complain there are a lot of people that have it worse than I do as a result of this mess. However, if fans of the book are looking for a little extra hit from The Last Marines universe they can check out my short story Colony Project 11273 available on Amazon in CONTACT THIS! a first contact anthology. I’ve got two other short stories that take place in The Last Marines universe but I’m still looking for the right anthologies to submit them to. The shorts are stand alone but will tie in to the series later down the line. Eventually I’d like to have enough of these shorts to publish a strictly Last Marines universe short story anthology.

What’s next for you? 

As I mentioned above, getting book two out is a priority, and I’m writing book three currently. Also working on short stories, my regular job and my brothers and I are opening an RPG / Tabletop Gaming Center in Carrollton Texas, “RPG Dungeons” where folks can buy seats at our custom gaming tables, equipped with inset 55” digital displays, as well as use our provided terrain, battle maps (if they aren’t into digital) and they can use our painted minis (we have hundreds on display for people to choose from). And I’m tossing around the idea of writing an RPG for The Last Marines that will be launched at RPG Dungeons as a supported game.

Lawrence N. Oliver struggled in school. He has dyslexia and he hated reading, especially aloud. So, his father bought him a copy of The Foundation and The Hobbit. He can’t remember which was first but he fell in love with the genres. He’d always had a vivid imagination and a daydreamer’s attention span, they’d have called it ADD were he in school today. Even now he catches himself staring out of the window thinking about his characters, their misadventures and the other worlds they inhabit.

As he grew up it was life, responsibilities and procrastination that had kept him from ever putting any of his daydreams down on paper. One day he found himself home alone with a few days off work. He was reading a book, sitting by the window in his overstuffed cliché suburban recliner. It was just good ole’ space opera, high adventure, the good guy is always good and always right in the end kind of stuff. Nothing wrong with that but he kept finding himself drifting from the book, looking out the window thinking of a different story. One that was a little more in keeping with the accounts of conflict he’d grown up listening to. What he knew and had read about points of view and good people making bad decisions in impossible situations where no matter what you did it could end up wrong and people could die. But if you didn’t do something you and your fellow soldiers would be the casualties. Things aren’t black and white, even the good guys screw shit up and sometimes the good guys aren’t really the good guys at all, again depending on your point of view. So he put down the book he was reading and he started writing. 

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